Working Paper
Why are Mexican politicians being assassinated?

The role of oil theft and narcocracy and the electoral consequences of organized crime

When does organized crime resort to assassinating politicians? In narcocracies, criminal groups co-opt political elites through bribery in exchange for protection to traffic illegal drugs. When criminal groups compete, they may also resort to political violence to influence which candidate wins local elections in strategic areas and retaliate when state action threatens their survival.

Using new data on political assassinations in Mexico during 2000–21, we show that political candidates are more likely to be assassinated in areas close to oil pipelines used by drug trafficking organizations for oil theft. Former mayors of areas near oil pipelines remain at high risk of assassination.

In municipalities where at least one mayor has already been killed, the arrest of a member of organized crime significantly increases the chance that an incumbent mayor will be killed. Political violence is directed at politicians, not voters, so it has a negligible impact on voter turnout.